Picking my favorite music for a year is a little weird, the more I delve into it. A lot of stuff that I “discovered” this year actually came out last year or earlier. Some of my favorite albums that came out in 2017 include songs that were released in 2016 or even 2015. When you think about it even more, there’s a very good chance that I haven’t even heard my favorite song from 2017 yet. Even if I have, I still might grow a new appreciation for something that I initially brushed off. Drawing up lists like this always involves some degree of arbitrariness.
But I still wanted to do something to mark the end of the year, so I built a list of my favorite songs from this year. I tried to stick to a full rules, though:
1) Songs should be from 2017 when possible. 2016 is okay if I wasn’t aware of the artist until this year, or if the song was released as an early single for a full album that came out in 2017, but try not to go earlier than that.
2) I decided to limit myself to 2 songs from a given artist. If they have two songs on the list, it should either be because the artist had multiple releases this year, or because I really liked the release in question. Generally speaking, I like the larger body of work of every artist here and would recommend listening to more of any of them if you like what I included here, but I didn’t want the list bloating up too much; it’s already nearly 5 hours as is.
Seeing as this list is 80 songs, I’m not going to touch on every single inclusion, but I’ll highlight a few things here and there. With that out of the way, let’s get to it:
“House Party”-The Knocks & Captain Cuts
“Turn It Up”-Penguin Prison
“Victorious”-Parade of Lights
All of these are relatively late releases in 2017, and each likely will be followed up sometime in 2018 with full record releases. I’m very much looking forward to each.
“Cut to the Feeling”-Carly Rae Jepsen
“Stay the Night”-Jukebox the Ghost
“Feel Good”-Neon Trees
All of these are in a somewhat similar to the first bunch I highlighted, except they were released earlier in 2017 and I haven’t heard anything concrete on follow-ups for any of them. We’ll see where that goes.
“Waiting for the Punches (We Go On)”-Atomic Tom
I’ve been a big fan of Atomic Tom since their 2010 debut album, and I have to say, the soundtrack of a direct-to-video sequel for a largely forgotten mid-2000s kids’ comedy is not where I expected to find them in 2017. Still, though, their contributions to it were good, so whatever.
It feels like every few months, I find some art pop band that I get really into. ALASKALASKA was one of the ones for 2017. “Patience” has one of my favorite moments in any song of the year, and probably the most cathartic one; after nearly four minutes of gradual build-up, we get a massive horn line into a one-and-a-quarter minute outro. It’s amazing.
Tremendous Sea of Love-Passion Pit
Something to Tell You-HAIM
These are the albums that I feel like I might warm up to even more going forward. It’s basically what happened with HAIM’s first album. I’m especially worried that I’m being too harsh on Passion Pit, comparing TSOL to their previous releases. It’s a little weird release overall, and to be honest, I’m not actually even sure if it’s more of an album or a long, especially-polished EP or even set of demos. Maybe I’m just thinking about this too much.
GALLERY-A R I Z O N A
Act One (The Complete Collection)-Marian Hill
These albums all came very close to making my top albums of the year/getting two songs on the playlist, but in the end, they just missed (Act One in part because it was a 2016 release with a 2015 EP attached that I just found out about this year, but whatever).
Great Good Fine Ok
All of these bands have such weird release schedules for new music, basically releasing individual songs before sometimes maybe collecting them into EPs, so they each mostly get singles here. Great Good Fine Ok’s III was technically released in early January, but had songs from as early as 2015 on it, so I wasn’t sure if it should count, but I eventually went with it.
I Don’t Like Being Honest-The Aces
Good Look for You-Gavin Turek
Give It Up-Patternist
THE SCIENCE OF LETTING GO-Smallpools
Crafting a good EP feels like a totally different art from a good album. Since they’re so much shorter, they have to do more to stand out, and they have less room for error. Either way, these would be my picks for my favorite EPs of the year. Ultraviolet and Give It Up were 2016 releases that I didn’t see until this year, and they’re each perfect snippets of pop. Gavin Turek’s Good Look for You is a great R&B throwback. Smallpools’ follow-up to their first album LOVETAP went in a kind of different direction, but after a listen or two, I really started to dig it. Kaleidoscopes blew away everything else that Transviolet released before it; their earlier releases were good, but the strength of “The Hamptons” and “Don’t Put It On Me” really kicked this up to the next level. And The Aces will be one to watch going forward; I Don’t Like Being Honest is a very solid debut.
Felt-The Chain Gang of 1974
These are my honorable mentions for Albums of the Year. I liked each artist’s previous album well enough, but both of these blew away my expectations. Closer builds on Youth’s strengths in a big way, and shows some major growth as songwriters and performers. And I have no idea what it is, but something on Felt really connected with me, and I can’t really explain what.
Connect the Dots-MisterWives
What If Nothing-Walk the Moon
And these five are my choices for Album of the Year (in alphabetical order by artist, not in any sort of hard ranking). There’s a good chance I would have just listed every song from each album if I hadn’t put in the two-song-per-artist restriction in place.
EGO has maybe my favorite run of songs in anything this year, between #4 (“Unusual”) and #8 (“Johnny Cash”), including maybe my favorite song of the year in “The Beautiful Game”. The rest of the album is really good, but just…wow, those five in a row.
Gone Now is one that grew on me. For some reason, I wasn’t sure what to make of it when it came out, but it stuck with me, and I was shocked on later listens to find myself singing along with it without realizing how much of it had sunk in. Picking a second song to go with “Don’t Take the Money” was hard, but “Goodmorning” was one of the songs that I noticed worked its way into my brain. Also, Bleachers released a live album this year that’s worth checking out if you’re into that type of thing.
Connect the Dots is like the distillation of everything I liked about MisterWives’ debut into something even stronger. Picking two songs was hard, but I wound up leaving off “Chasing This” since it featured in an earlier Music Monday from this year.
About U is MUNA’s debut album, and easily my favorite debut-anything of the year. They’ve already released a follow-up single, so maybe a 2018 follow-up will find it’s way onto next year’s list.
Talking Is Hard was one of my favorite releases of 2014, and I was worried that it would be hard to top. What If Nothing delivers on that, though, feeling like an expansion and deeper focus version of that album. Starting it for the first time brought me back to how it felt the first time I listened to Talking Is Hard, in love with the new thing that I’m listening to, and that’s a good place to be.
I saw Bleachers, MisterWives, MUNA, and Walk the Moon all live this year, and all of them are amazing acts to see first hand. Highly recommended, if you get an opportunity.